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Sam Hawksmoor
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Man, Woman and child
Sam North
The Faithful partner story


‘...then I woke up ... it was all a dream.’
‘What? I wasn’t listening’.
‘I said then I woke up ... , never mind. You seen the shampoo?’
‘Shit, sorry, I used the last of it on the cat.’
Huh? I looked at her in the mirror. ‘We haven’t got a cat.’
She returned my look. 'I know we haven’t got a cat because you won’t let me have a cat. If we had a cat I’d have someone to talk to all day instead of watching the damn TV.’

I turned off the shower and grabbed a towel, irritated I hadn’t been able to wash my hair. I like to wash my hair every morning. She was still staring at me as if awaiting an answer. I knew what this was. She wanted a row. Great timing, I’m late for a work meeting and she wants a row. ‘Listen, if you hadn’t walked out on your last job you wouldn’t have to watch TV all day and watching TV isn't going to find you a job. You said you’d register with an agency.’
‘I did. I told you. I did the typing test and Juliette says she thinks she’s going to put me up for a job at the undertakers.’
‘The who?’ I couldn’t have heard that right. I pulled on my black chinos and looked back across at her as she sat on the end of the bed. ‘Undertakers? Davina, you are a designer, what could you possibly do at an undertakers? Makeovers for the dead?’

She kicked the cupboard door shut and looked at me with that special kind of piercing annoyance she saved up for ‘rows’. ‘That was a typically stupid sexist remark. I don’t use make-up, in case you haven’t noticed - ever. And if I want to work at the undertakers I bloody well will.’

Tucking my shirt in I looked at her with dispassionate eyes. Her thin white body, the inverted nipples on her silicone enhanced pale breasts. I had begged her not to changed her breasts, it wasn’t natural to be so thin and have a big girls breasts. Who knows why people do things. I will myself to recall what it was that had drawn me to her two years before. She’d changed a lot in that time. Some people would say she has grown up, but I tended to think of her as someone who had soured on the vine. Everything she did or said was pretty indigestible. I adopted a conciliatory tone.
‘What I meant was ....you are a talented designer with great skills. I don’t know why you got laid off, I don’t know why anyone with such a great portfolio hasn’t been snapped up, but working at an undertakers seems...’
‘No, beneath your expectations. Shit Davina, you are always complaining everything is so soulless - well at least you could guarantee that there.’
‘Funny.’ She frowned at me. Another ploy in her arsenal of interpersonal weapons. She sighed. ‘They need new brochures and a corporate image.’
‘Now there’s a thing, an undertaker who needs a better corporate image.’
‘Everyone needs a better image, death is a hard sell.’
I slipped on my shoes and began to tie the laces.
‘So bigger, brighter coffins, buy now whilst stocks last.’
‘Something like that.’
I saw the clock. ‘Shit. Running late.’
“You should have breakfast.’
‘No time.’
‘Make time Richard, I need to talk to you.’
‘Tell me now.’ I pulled on my black linen fake Armani jacket.

She lay back on the bed and pulled a sheet over her feet. I could see the gooseflesh on her thighs. The central heating was lower than normal. Bloody boiler on the blink again. She darted a look at me as I waited to hear what she had to say.
‘I’m pregnant.’
‘But...’ A rush of thoughts raced through my head, but one particular one. My vasectomony.
‘Is that all you can say? But?’

I was numb. I decided to keep it light. Bad time for confrontations. Need to think this through. I distinctly remember her telling me that she never wanted to have kids and how I was the perfect partner since I couldn’t have any now.
‘Who’s the lucky guy?’
She smiled, I recognised that smile. It was a cruel and victorious smile. The smile you make after you have cut someone’s throat.
‘Martin’. She answered.
A light switched on in her eyes. This was the knife she was using. An excellent joke,choosing my immediate boss to impregnate her, someone she knew I loathed and detested.
‘Martin? The Hunchback of Ladbroke Grove?’
‘It’s a stoop. He had asthma as a child, it’s not a hunch.’
‘Great genes. How long?’
‘Me and Martin?’
‘Yes, you and fucking Martin.’
She laughed. ‘Since he made you take on the website and the late shift. Remember how keen you were to get the website going. How you thought it would impress Martin, look good on your C.V.? He knew you would obsess. You didn’t even notice he’d been lying in our bed - you are so fucking insensitive, you didn’t smell him. You even fell asleep one night when he was still here.’ She laughed again. ‘Everyone in your office knows. You are so pathetic Richard.'

This hurt, but then it was meant to.
‘But fucking Martin? The child will be hideous.’
‘You’re not playing the game, Richard.’
‘What? Demanding you get out, slap you around? Is that the game? Of course you have to move out. Go and live with Martin. But then Martin is married isn’t he. A wife and two nasty, weasly asthmatic runts. Must be awkward that.’
‘Martin is leaving her. I’m leaving you. Today in fact. At nine-thirty. Martin is coming here. That’s why he called a meeting for nine. You’d be there. He’d be here. We’re going to Barbados. Scuba diving.’
I laughed. ‘Scuba diving? You hate the water. You don’t even sunbathe. You refused to go near a beach.’
She pulled a face. ‘Martin will teach me. He’s got a holiday home there. You don’t even own a car.’
‘I need a coffee.’ I walked over to the kitchen. That’s the trouble with a loft apartment. Everything is one place, you couldn’t escape the other person if you tried.
‘Are you angry?’ She enquired. A stupid question, but oddly enough, now I thought about it. I wasn’t. Disappointed, but not angry.
‘Martin doesn’t drink coffee’ she informed me. ‘He says it reduces your potency.’

I stood in the kitchen and thought about my life with Davina as it was coming to an abrupt end. What was worse? That I had spent two years with this shallow devious woman or my nemesis had been shagging her behind my back and then boasting about it to my co-workers (who had never breathed a word to me the bastards). What kind of saphead was I. How could I have noticed nothing?

The kettle boiled, I poured the steaming water over the coffee grounds and waited a moment to depress the cafetiere’s plunger. Something was dead wrong. How had I missed all this? Surely there would have been some warning? How could I have made this big a mess? What happened so bad that it made the woman who told me she loved me more than anything else in the whole world turn against me - with bloody Martin of all people.

The fridge door opened behind me. I turned and there was Martin with Davina standing behind him, still naked apart from a pair of pink bedsocks. Martin was wearing an undertakers outfit, complete with a blacktop hat with tassels. This was getting seriously weird.
‘Hello Richard. You ready?’
‘To go. Did you sign off the website? It looks good by the way. It’s nice to know that you didn’t waste your time.’
‘Kill him now,’ Davina hissed. ‘I’m cold, Martin. Kill him now.’
‘What?’ Now that hurt. It is one thing to know that she didn’t love me anymore, but to discover she hates me. The look on her face was one of pure loathing and impatience. ‘Oh God, I’ll do it. I always have to do everything.’
She suddenly wrenched the ice-pick out of his hands and lunged forwards towards me. She plunged the pick into my chest. I felt her sour breath on my face and saw into her angry eyes as she said ...’Next time you’ll notice when I cut my hair, you bastard.’

I felt a rush of air escape my lungs and an intense pain. There was a roar of pressure building up in my head as I realised that I was going to die, killed by the one person I had truly trusted.
‘Bye Richard,’ Martin said.
‘Don’t make a mess,’ Davina added as she moved over the bedroom to get dressed.

The phone was ringing. Really close and loud. Someone should answer it.
I suddenly opened my eyes.
Davina was sitting naked on the edge of the bed holding my phone and talking to someone. She was smiling. She saw I was awake.
‘It’s Martin,’ she said. ‘He wants you in the office for nine.’

© Sam North 2001

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